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February 28, 2005

"News from the war on women"

First draft has a post you have to read. With a strong drink in hand. And a blank check to NARAL.

The TSA Trap

After our recent discovery, while checking in for a flight, that the name "David Smith" is on the No-Fly List, I've been thinking a lot about the illusory nature of airline security. But not as much as tech legend John Gilmore. His hometown paper has a great profile of the SUN co-founder and EFF funder that also chronicles his efforts to read the law that requires US citizens to show government-issued ID to board a plane. The article is great:

The government has been so unyielding on disclosure that men with the name David Nelson suddenly found themselves ejected from flights. Somewhere in the system, the name came up on the newly created "No Fly" list. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., found himself in the same dilemma. When baggage screeners were caught pilfering, prosecutions were dropped because a trial would require a discussion of "Sensitive Security Information."

When John Gilmore demanded proof that the airport ID rule met Constitutional muster, the government at first declined to acknowledge it even existed.

Gilmore's famed eccentricity is put to awfully good service in this cause. He is asking questions that most of us can't afford to (he's worth millions) out of the sheer necessity of travel. We may not even have time to notice we're submitting to ever-more-arbitrary "security" requirements. But he's smart enough to notice and ornery enough to stick with what most would consider a Quixotic effort.

"I will show a passport to travel internationally. I'm not willing to show a passport to travel in my own country," Gilmore said. "I used to laugh at countries that had internal passports. And it's happened here and people don't even seem to know about it."

Indeed.

February 27, 2005

February 26, 2005

Chocolate - need I say more?

Tonight, I had my first Chantico. I was skeptical. How could 6 fluid ounces be enough? I mean this is chocolate we are talking about... 6 fluid ounces is nothing, right?

Well, I am here to tell you that 6 fluid ounces is perfect. OK, 390 calories (190 from fat) is a lot. But let me tell you, it is worth every single one!

February 24, 2005

Yikes!

A my friend Jan, who will hopefully soon be leaving Poland, sends this terribly disturbing article about the state of affairs there. His hometown of Cracow is at the center of a "gay panic" that is helping neo-fascist Catholic politicians cement their hold on Polish civic and political life. It's a reminder that however bad things might be here, others have it much worse.

Poland's incestuous marriage of nationalism and religion, whose most virulent and succesful mainstream political embodyment is the rightist League of Polish Families, has dire consequences for queers and women. There is an obsessive insistence on reproduction. The right-wing repeats ad nauseam the argument of Poland's falling birthrate. "The fatherland is in danger," politicians and the media cry out. "Poles are dying, there are no new generations, lesbians, gays and pedophiles do not reproduce. On the contrary, they are out to ambush and deprive your children!" In the past 12 months, the outlines of what is, in fact, a nationalist mobilization against an imagined enemy, queers, have become clear.

While Bush is making stops in the "democracies" of Eastern Europe, he might remind people that even in democracies the abuse of minorities is a slippery slope. Oh, wait-- he uses the same tactics at home! What's worse, the Poles are importing American homophobes to make their gay-bashing arguments. What we don't stop here can quickly spread abroad!

Anyway, read the article.

H2G2 game in living color

The Beeb has two full-color updated versions of the old Infocomm text-only game based on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on its site. This could be dangerous!

Stabbed in the Kitchen

Since I love themes, and last week I brought to light the topic of my cleaning outfits, I thought that I would start a theme. Today: COOKING. Do you ever get frustrated in the kitchen? Does your Caesar turn fishy? Does that Crème Brulee burn instead of turning a golden brown? And God knows I hate it when the Tofurky turns to rubber!

Well, instead of kicking the dog, or pushing your mother down a flight of stairs, I have found the perfect answer to the end of Kitchen Frustration!

February 22, 2005

Good practice for America's future as China's bitch

I often wonder how Bush justifies his reflexive obedience to the will of the Saudis. My new theory, after reading this is that it might be a good thing. After just a few more years of Wal Mart helping the masses send all America's jobs--and money--to China, we will have to be even more accomodating to China than Bush currently is to the Saudis. We don't want it to be too much of a shock, now do we? [Cue new national anthem, Pets by Porno for Pyros.]

Even by those standards, though, Bush's praise for a recent "anti-terrorism" conference help by the Saudis is stunning:

President Bush earlier this month dispatched top White House official Frances Fragos Townsend to head an official U.S. delegation attending an "anti-terrorism" conference in Saudi Arabia -- a conference that aired vile anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist canards. Saudi Cleric Aed Al-Qarni noted at the conference that "The first to kill and use terrorism in the world were the Jews," according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI); the cleric went on to describe September 11th as "an American terror attack."

According to White House press secretary Scott McClellan, President Bush spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah on February 14th and "complimented the Crown Prince on last week's successful counter-terrorism conference in Saudi Arabia."

In addition to the American delegation led by Townsend, who serves as President Bush's Homeland Security Advisor with the rank of Assistant to the President, the conference included participation from nations including Iran, Syria and Sudan -- all state sponsors of terrorism, according to the Department of State. Senator Frank Lautenberg (NJ) first warned President Bush to avoid the conference in a February 4th letter to Bush.

Throughout and surrounding the conference, various Saudi clerics noted that "Jews and the Christians are Allah's enemies," and that Jihad -- including attacks by insurgents in Iraq -- is appropriate. In a poem read before Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan, it was noted that Osama bin Laden "was sent by the Jews."

Isn't it great to know that a president who thinks the Kyoto Treaty and the World Court aren't appropriate fora for US participation agreed to participate in an event like this? Once again: What if Clinton had done it?

February 20, 2005

More bad science

The terrible inaccuracies in the government approved sex education programs are, tragically, old news already. But wait, there's more! If that bad information fails you, you end up pregnant and then, heaven help you, you end up wanting to end your government mandated pregnancy, you're in for more bad news.

In several states, women considering abortion are given government-issued brochures warning that the procedure could increase their chance of developing breast cancer, despite scientific findings to the contrary.

(In an unfortunate bit of freaky related news, Norma McCovey - that's Jane Roe to the rest of us - has asked the Supreme Court to overthrow Roe vs. Wade.)

Women should have the right to accurate information about their health and well being, especially when it comes to something as life altering as child-bearing. Bullying women into having a baby through disinformation and fear is dishonest and thuggish and shameful.

Do I think abortion is wrong? None of your damn business. Do I think that handing out intentionally inaccuarate information in an attempt to influence your decision about abortion is wrong? You bet your ass I do.

This story infuriates me.

Christianity, GOP-style

Imagine how the rest of the world, especially the non-Christian world, must think the most important Christian values are in the United States:

I mean, say you'd never read the bible and you were trying to figure out what it's all about based solely on how it's represented in public politics. You'd have to assume that Jesus was this, like, insanely angry dude who had a lot of ideas about how the Romans ought to run their government and totally fucking hated gays more than anything. In fact, you would fairly guess that Jesus talked about his theories on sexuality, birthing, and science like 99% of the time, but maybe had, like, a passing hobby where he gave soup cans to lepers on thanksgiving or whatever.

(From Big Picnic via The Poor Man. )

February 18, 2005

D without G, How Will I Go On?

My heart is bleeding right now. This has to be the blackest day since Tom Ford left Gucci....how will I go on...aaahhh the pain, the pain.

Dust Bunnies and Disco Lights

You know, there are just some days where cleaning my house is just a complete bore! Sometimes I like to pretend I am someone else cleaning so it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. This can included many various disguises: wigs, pink fuzzy bathrobes, French maids outfits and even cha-cha heels. But I must admit all of this has become very lack luster for me. So I have sent myself out on a search for my new Cleaning Ensemble!
At first I thought, Star Trek! Beam my Dust up, Scottie…..no that doesn’t work! Then I thought, Jungle Book Cleaning Day, swinging from the chandeliers naked as a jay bird….no, those lights would come ripping out off the ceiling and how do I explain that to Mike when he gets home. Maybe an Oprah Cleaning Day, where I sit my fat ass on the couch, flip my hair around and talk to my friends about very private issues in front of millions of people….no, I have no friends with private issues.

And then I found it! Thumping music, Snow Ball disco lights, and free beer from the Frig! With this new top, and a pair of terry cloth hot-pants (for dusting of course), who the hell would care about the dust!!! WHHHAAA-hooooooo! Disco Dusting here I come!

February 17, 2005

Why Karl Rove gives me the creeps

Karl Christian Rove

It's not just the long history of dirty campaign tricks or his penchant for championing conservative activist judges or even the fact that he is almost singularly responsible for the rise of George W. Bush.

What really bothers me about Karl Rove? He's a consultant.

Mr. Rove does not need to believe in what his clients are doing in order to devise and implement a strategy to meet their objectives. Karl doesn't have to be sincere, he just needs to be well rehearsed. As long as he is being paid his skills are at your disposal and he will do his best to see that you win, regardless of the cost.

His promotion to deputy White House Chief of Staff is particularly alarming because now he is able to exert his considerable communications skills over a much broader set of issues both domestic and foreign. I, for one, wonder just how much control he wields within the WH especially with respect to the process for granting press passess.

And speaking as the deputy WH CoS, Mr. Rove continues to undermine discourse in favor of talking points.

Rich on "Gannon," MoDo on press passes

Frank Rich has a great column today about how Gannongate has collapsed any boundary between "real" news and "fake" news as practiced by John Stewart--with a sensible thesis that fake news is the perfect medium for the times:

The "Jeff Gannon" story got less attention than another media frenzy - that set off by the veteran news executive Eason Jordan, who resigned from CNN after speaking recklessly at a panel discussion at Davos, where he apparently implied, at least in passing, that American troops deliberately targeted reporters. Is the banishment of a real newsman for behaving foolishly at a bloviation conference in Switzerland a more pressing story than that of a fake newsman gaining years of access to the White House (and network TV cameras) under mysterious circumstances? With real news this timid, the appointment of Jon Stewart to take over Dan Rather's chair at CBS News could be just the jolt television journalism needs. As Mr. Olbermann demonstrated when he borrowed a sharp "Daily Show" tool to puncture the "Jeff Gannon" case, the only road back to reality may be to fight fake with fake.

In more revealing news, Maureen Dowd tells us today about her inability to get a White House press pass. (A propos of my post yesterday, perhaps turning tricks might actually increase her chances!) She starts off in rare form, asking "Who knew that a hotmilitarystud wanting to meetlocalmen could so easily get to be face2face with the commander in chief?" But her experience confirms the obvious--that the White House was actively preferential in getting Gannon/Guckert in. She uses this story to its best end--tying together all that we know about the White House's Orwellian and un-democratic manipulation of the media. That's the tragedy. What makes it fun is the opportunity to laugh at the farce of the Gaybasher-in-Chief consorting with a gay hustler.

I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?

At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass - after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months.

In an era when security concerns are paramount, what kind of Secret Service background check did James Guckert get so he could saunter into the West Wing every day under an assumed name while he was doing full-frontal advertising for stud services for $1,200 a weekend? He used a driver's license that said James Guckert to get into the White House, then, once inside, switched to his alter ego, asking questions as Jeff Gannon.

Mr. McClellan shrugged this off to Editor & Publisher magazine, oddly noting, "People use aliases all the time in life, from journalists to actors."

I know the F.B.I. computers don't work, but this is ridiculous. After getting gobsmacked by the louche sagas of Mr. Guckert and Bernard Kerik, the White House vetters should consider adding someone with some blogging experience.

Does the Bush team love everything military so much that even a military-stud Web site is a recommendation?

Or maybe Gannon/Guckert's willingness to shill free for the White House, even on gay issues, was endearing. One of his stories mocked John Kerry's "pro-homosexual platform" with the headline "Kerry Could Become First Gay President."

With the Bushies, if you're their friend, anything goes. If you're their critic, nothing goes. They're waging a jihad against journalists - buying them off so they'll promote administration programs, trying to put them in jail for doing their jobs and replacing them with ringers.

At last month's press conference, Jeff Gannon asked Mr. Bush how he could work with Democrats "who seem to have divorced themselves from reality." But Bush officials have divorced themselves from reality.

They flipped TV's in the West Wing and Air Force One to Fox News. They paid conservative columnists handsomely to promote administration programs. Federal agencies distributed packaged "news" video releases with faux anchors so local news outlets would run them. As CNN reported, the Pentagon produces Web sites with "news" articles intended to influence opinion abroad and at home, but you have to look hard for the disclaimer: "Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense." The agencies spent a whopping $88 million spinning reality in 2004, splurging on P.R. contracts.

Even the Nixon White House didn't do anything this creepy. It's worse than hating the press. It's an attempt to reinvent it.

February 16, 2005

Wanted a mandate, got a man-whore

I am remiss in not having written about the "Jeff Gannon"/Jim Guckert affair before now. Why, you ask? After a long season of political news that made me so angry I simply had to write it out, I've been too busy laughing my ass off about this story to get behind the keyboard!

For those of you who have been under a rock, read Kos, World O'Crap or, most especially, AmericaBlog--or, wow, the Washington Post's Howie Kurtz for whom the appearance of Guckert's naughty bits seems to raised the new value of the whole sordid story.

Suffice it to say, this is the story I've been waiting for--the story that proves that there is some justice in the world, right at the intersection of Hubris Street and Hypocrisy Avenue. More than that, it proves that trying to simultaneously repress and exploit the gay community is a bad idea--when you push us too hard, secrets you thought were safely hidden will find a way out of the closet.

This is also the story that Orwell would have loved. The White House's obsessive message control, endless repetition of inane talking points and distaste for the "reality-based community" have created a situation in which their dependence on right-wing media whores has culminated in the appearance, right there in the White House press room, of a real whore. They have gone--with amazing speed--from partisans who shill for money to those who fuck for it.

The right has seized on the idea that we left-bloggers are "invading Guckert's private life." No, in fact, we are exploring his professional life. If you doubt this, imagine the scandal that would result if we learned that Maureen Dowd were giving handjobs for $10 in the stairwells of the Times' headquarters! To the great chagrin of the right in this country, we have an expectation that people earning a living as members of the "fourth estate" are not simultaneously turning tricks. [Although perhaps they are preparing us for a "free market" future in the "ownership society" they are pushing, where we might have to get used to seeing grandma turning tricks on the corner so she can afford a nice cat food dinner.]

AmericaBlog's John Aravosis, who helped break this story, has an appropriately outraged
post today about the right wing's faux outrage that somehow left-bloggers are homophobic to be following this story. He's mad enough for both of us, and I hope I don't have to spell out how ridiculous this is. It's really only a valid argument if you think "homosexual prostitute" is a morally redundant phrase.

Many people have said this more eloquently, so I'll say it bluntly: can you fucking imagine what would have happened if Clinton had let a gay male prostitute into regular briefings? It would have made Monicagate look minor by comparison. [I sure am glad Bush has "restored honor to the White House" like he promised in his 2000 campaign!]

So I'll write more later, and add in some choice links from this post, but I needed to get on the record. My final comment is this: if we Democrats don't flog Bush with this endlessly over the next few news cycles, we're total idiots. The Republicans don't just live in the gutter of personal attacks, they dug it! (Don't believe me? Think of the GOP comparing legless, armless war vet Max Cleland to Osama bin Laden. Shameful.) None of this "don't stoop to their level" bullshit. They own all three branches and have loyal mouthpieces in the media-- they set the rules of this game and if we are not complete idiots we will play those rules right to the foul line. I, for one, plan on really enjoying watching these sad old elephants sweat.

Every country has it's horrifying prepackaged goods, I suppose

While I will give David and Terry the benefit of the doubt about all the flavored chips in England (though not lamb and mint. I'm sorry. I've never tasted lamb with mint jelly, but that just seems so wrong. And I love lamb.) Sara's comment about the unfairness of comparing the scary end of the local grocery to the show window of an Italian baking cathedral got me to remembering that even in Italia, there were some none-too-appetizing looking foodstuffs lurking on shelves here and there.

Case in point, electric-colored pastas.

pastacomesinhorrifyingcolors.jpg

There were a few other things in the shops in Italy that gave me pause as well. Like wine in Ssips boxes--you know those juice box things with the straws we had as kids? And tuna salad topped pizza. Or deviled ham panini. (Who EVER thought that would be a good idea?)

But Diet Coke was better there. As was pretty much everything else. Like cheese.

formaggio.jpg

And sunset.
sunsetfromthepontevecchio.jpg


the more exalted the society, the greater its culture and refinement

France has its Monets. Italy has its Caravaggios and DaVincis. The Netherlands has all those Vermeers and van Goghs. Spain its Picassos and Goyas.

But we, the mighty US...we the leaders of a free world...we the shining light on the hill for all to admire and emulate...we have Cassius Marcellus Coolidge.

Never heard of him? Oh come on. You've seen his work in some of the finest pool halls and sports bars in the land. Your parents might even have had a print of his classic work. The name might not be all that familiar, but his indelible images are as memorable as Marcel Duchamps urinal or Botticelli's doleful blondes.

Mr. Coolidge was the artistic genius behind the 1903 masterpiece 'Dogs Playing Poker". And we love it. Which is why one of us shelled out over half a million dollars to own this cultural masterpiece.

In the artistic smackdown, I think the US will easily beat out the namby pamby "high art" snobs of Europe.

Everyone's a critic

You've been wondering how much of Homeland Security's energy is spent on art criticism, haven't you?

Fake passports created as part of an Austrian artist's exhibit have been confiscated by U.S. government authorities, Ohio museum officials said Tuesday.

You can get a State of Sabotage passport online for 35 dollars here.

February 15, 2005

Not even going to the regionals

Tesco01.jpg

Just got back from England, where they've got no chance of even getting a ticket to the culinary smackdown. Also seen: vegetarian haggis, next to the non-veggie blood sausage on the shelf. Put that in your shopping cart next to the Lamb and Mint Sauce flavored potato chips.

February 14, 2005

Crappy Valentines' Day!

I had to laugh at this Boing Boing post about a "hilariously mistranslated " candy wrapper:

"[W]hen I first saw this... I was stunned and speechless. It literally means "crazy diarrhea" in both Chinese Hanzi and Japanese Kanji."

Then again, maybe it's like that time we put Ex-Lax in my crazy English teacher's hot chocolate!

Ah, Venice

I sigh that everytime I look at these photos. First day back at work after my long vacation was extended by some nasty bugs, and though it's nice to once again walk among the living, I'd still rather be in my beautiful Venice.

GrandCanal.jpg

Spreading the VD Love

Well today is the day where, traditionally, we spread the love of VD!

Ok, did you know that St. Valentine’s day is no longer a official Catholic Holiday? And hasn’t been since 1969 (Damn Vatican II)? Did you know that the Catholic church doesn’t even really know who or what St. Valentine was? Did you know that St. Valentine’s Day is actually based on a Roman festival, Lupercalia, where men drew women’s names out of a hat and got to shack up with the chick for the rest of the year! But I guess some Pope did not like that idea, so he changed it around to meet the Church’s needs…go figure!

Read More….

February 13, 2005

The Doctor is in!

Let's all be clear about this. Either the Democratic Party fights the President and the Congressional Republicans tooth and nail, or the country is pretty much toast. Harry Reid is doing a damn fine job as Senate Minority Leader giving 'em hell on Social Security, but we are going to have to stay low, fight hard, and enforce discipline if we have any chance against their message machine and media dominance.

But the good news is that we finally have someone in charge of the party who understands that the Democratic Party should belong to individuals, and not just a corporate-funded clone of the GOP. Howard Dean used "the Internets" to great effect in his campaign. Now that he is (thank the good Lord) head of the DNC, he will no doubt do the same.

If you are, like me, happy that Dean beat out a bunch of idiots who thought the right response to Nov. 2 was to chuck our core values and go "Repub Lite," why not chip in some cash for the cause to welcome him? Best of all, the button below will take you to a page where you can make that happen--while letting them know nonfamous.com sent you. [Secure contribution link provided by ActBlue.]

Get to it!

Contribution amount: $

There is more in heaven and earth

...than is dreamt of in your philosophy, to quote Shakespeare.

But this article takes it to a new level:

Deep in the basement of a dusty university library in Edinburgh lies a small black box, roughly the size of two cigarette packets side by side, that churns out random numbers in an endless stream.

At first glance it is an unremarkable piece of equipment. Encased in metal, it contains at its heart a microchip no more complex than the ones found in modern pocket calculators.

But, according to a growing band of top scientists, this box has quite extraordinary powers. It is, they claim, the 'eye' of a machine that appears capable of peering into the future and predicting major world events.

February 12, 2005

Our little cupcake really is Royale now!

ccreallyroyale.jpg

LONDON/SEATTLE (AFP) - Prince Charles and CC Royale embarked on a two-month engagement ahead of their wedding, which will make official a longtime relationship notorious for its role in bringing together the Royal Family and the British gay community. While CC Royale adamantly denies that she is a transsexual, rumors are flying faster then CC Royale on a broom.

In a first public appearance following the announcement on Thursday, the couple appeared at Windsor Castle. While Charles stood quietly by, CC Royale broke out in an impromptu number of “I Will Survive.”

A beaming Royale (known to friends as Cupcake) sported a full-length fuchsia evening gown and a platinum diamond engagement ring -- a royal heirloom -- and said Charles had proposed to her on bended knee just before taking her doggie style.

The engagement, which gained approval from Charles' mother Queen Elizabeth II, the gang down at Destiny’s Karaoke (news - web sites) and his sons, princes William and Harry, was feted at Windsor with a gala dinner for 250 guests.

But in an apparent bid to counter criticism of their match, the couple have opted for a modest, private ceremony and announced that Royale will not seek to be queen. “Not until that tired old bitch is dead,” said CC Royale.

February 10, 2005

Take that, Pam!

I'm game for playing some culinary smackdown over pastry, Pam. Now that I'm finally getting around to getting some of pictures from Italy up somewhere.

(What can I say, I'm lazy.)

So, behold, all of you, not just some of those delicious sfogliatelle I described in Florence--in the lower right corner. These are surpassed in beauty and pleasure-inducing flakiness only by the giant ones on the left side.

If this doesn't convince, however, I have more where these came from.

(cue the evil laugh)

mwaaahaahaa....
sfogliatelle Medium Web view.jpg

February 07, 2005

Guns and Butter

Maybe I can save you some time. I found what I was looking for here: a short list of the bad stuff compiled by Senate gadfly Jim Jeffords.

* Environment. Cuts the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget by 5.6 percent from $8.02 billion to $7.57 billion, culminating in an almost 10 percent cut over two years. Most cuts come in efforts to maintain and improve the nation's clean water infrastructure.

* Veterans. More than doubles the co-payment charged to many veterans for prescription drugs and would require some to pay a new fee of $250 a year for the privilege of using the Veterans health care system.

* Health Care. Cuts Medicaid funding by $45 billion over 10 years and eliminates 28 health programs, totaling $1.36 billion. These programs range from rural hospital grants (cuts $39.5 million) to emergency medical services for children (cuts $20 million).

* Job Training. Cuts federal spending on job training by a half-billion dollars. Federal job training programs, including dislocated-worker training, will be cut by $200 million. Federal aid to states for job training, including funding to train veterans, will be cut by $300 million.

* Amtrak. Eliminates all funding for Amtrak, calling bankruptcy proceedings as the solution for our nation's rail system.

* Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP). Cuts LIHEAP by over 8 percent, from $2.2 billion to $2 billion.

* Parks. Cuts the National Park Service by 3 percent from $2.31 billion to $2.24 billion.

This is also where I found the link to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities budget assessment.

Anything else I could say would just be stating the obvious.

February 06, 2005

Just in time for Valentine's Day

"Before the 18th century, lovesickness had for thousands of years been accepted a recognised ailment. But for the past 200 years it has been out of favour with medical practitioners as a proper diagnosis..."

Dark ages are over, apparently for teen hearts of all ages, as lovesickness is making a comeback as a diagnosable, treatable disease. All that suffering over S.? I should have sought medical help. That inability to cope when sitting next to R. in the lunch room? Totally clinical. What a relief to know that when I thought I was just going to DIE if I didn't get to see J. again, I really could have actually dropped dead!

The last time I fell in love, I mean really plunged over the precipice, the object of my affections and I were married. Good thing, too, because "People can die from a broken heart."

Happy Valentine's Day.

February 04, 2005

No good deed goes unpunished

It's hard to believe, but two teenage girls have been sued for $900 for leaving freshly-baked cookies on the porch of a neighbour. The elderly woman next door had an anxiety attack, resulting in some medical bills following a check-up at the clinic the next day. Although the girl's family offered to pay her medical bills if she would agree to indemnify them against future claims, she refused, claiming that the "apologies rang false and weren't delivered in person". (Well - duh! - do you think the girls would make the mistake of knocking on her door twice?) The neighbor also said the girls should not have been running from door to door late at night: "Something bad could have happened to them". Like getting sued, maybe?

I am Ape Man

I am not sure if this has been on the blog before, if so, well just go do it again.
It's a face transformer that will let you change your ethnic make-up.....

I am spending way too much time with this!!!

February 03, 2005

The Harper's Index of Snow

Feet of snow outside my front door: 4
Feet of snow up in the mountains: 16
People trapped at the Planneralm resort: 300
Level (from 1-5) avalanche alert for the last 48 hours: 5
Cows killed in yesterday's local avalanche: 6
Barns destroyed: 1
Pairs of snowshoes parked by our front door: 2
Total hours out of the last 48 we've spent on snowshoes: 6
Times (while wearing snowshoes) we've been asked "Where's the dog team?": 1
People we've seen on snowshoes besides ourselves: 0
Soldiers used to clear snow from railway lines: 50
Days until winter break tourists start clogging the roads: 0.5
Projected number of travelers: 100,000
Days until helicopters start throwing bombs to start controlled avalanches so they can clear the roads: 1
Days we've had chains on the car: 2
Days since we've been grocery shopping: 5
Feet of snow in the forecast for today: 2
Days until the forecast says the snow will let up: 1

February 02, 2005

Redmond iPodders beware!

Wired News: Hide Your IPod, Here Comes Bill

Microsoft's leafy corporate campus in Redmond, Washington, is beginning to look like the streets of New York, London and just about everywhere else: Wherever you go, white headphones dangle from peoples' ears.

To the growing frustration and annoyance of Microsoft's management, Apple Computer's iPod is wildly popular among Microsoft's workers.

It's a really funny article. I'm certainly glad Paulette is towing the line with her Windows device!!!

You too can be in South Park

Here's a nifty site where you can create your own South Park character. Try making one in your own image! Here is my attempt:

SouthParkDMS.PNG

February 01, 2005

I AM NOT PARANOID!

Like many of my fellow nonfamousi I have been against this war in Iraq and the policies of the Bush Administration (both at home and abroad). I and others here have been saying, all along, that this war was about OIL - primarily the unfettered access of US oil companies to Iraqi oil fields and through Iraq into the Caspian Basin.

I don't care how many different reasons the neo-cons funnel through their mouthpiece in the oval office. The one and only reason we went to war in Iraq was OIL.

And now, it turns out that the neo-cons are about to be rewarded for all of the innocent blood that they have shed. Please read this article by Antonia Juhasz.

"On Dec. 22, 2004, Iraqi Finance Minister Abdel Mahdi told a handful of reporters and industry insiders at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. that Iraq wants to issue a new oil law that would open Iraq's national oil company to private foreign investment. As Mahdi explained: "So I think this is very promising to the American investors and to American enterprise, certainly to oil companies."

In other words, Mahdi is proposing to privatize Iraq's oil and put it into American corporate hands.

According to the finance minister, foreigners would gain access both to "downstream" and "maybe even upstream" oil investment. This means foreigners can sell Iraqi oil and own it under the ground — the very thing for which many argue the U.S. went to war in the first place."

If this doesn't get you just a little outraged over the lack of reporting in our "liberal" media, then I don't know what you are doing on this site. I mean, for pity's sake, he announced this at the freaking National Press Club! Where is the Fourth Estate? Oh, yeah, they're sucking on the corporate teat that owns their journalistic integrity.

"It turns out that Abdel Mahdi is running in the Jan. 30 elections on the ticket of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution (SCIR), the leading Shiite political party. While announcing the selling-off of the resource which provides 95 percent of all Iraqi revenue may not garner Mahdi many Iraqi votes, but it will unquestionably win him tremendous support from the U.S. government and U.S. corporations.

Mahdi's SCIR is far and away the front-runner in the upcoming elections, particularly as it becomes increasingly less possible for Sunnis to vote because the regions where they live are spiraling into deadly chaos. If Bush were to suggest to Iraq’s Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi that elections should be called off, Mahdi and the SCIR's ultimate chances of victory will likely decline.

Thus, one might argue that the Bush administration has made a deal with the SCIR: Iraq's oil for guaranteed political power. The Americans are able to put forward such a bargain because Bush still holds the strings in Iraq."

So, were the elections in Iraq a victory for democracy or American oil companies? I refuse to believe that elections held under the security conditions in Iraq were either free or fair. I think the Iraqi people have been sold down the river by their economic elite to a corrupt American oligarchy of industrial interests and the downpayment was made in blood.

dag!

I'm such a snob. A complete and utter snob. At least when it comes to food. Maybe a few other things, as well, but where a meal is concerned (or really even a snack) I am an unrepentant elitist. Which isn't to say that I am only willing to eat fancy food. Far from it. I'm just fairly insistent that what I eat is good. Which is why, as a rule, I refuse to patronize restaurant chains or any of those touristy places on the waterfront in Seattle. Or tourist restaurants in general.

The problem is, however, that sometimes you want to be in a particular location when you dine, and then you have to choose from the available options in that location. For example, on the banks of the grand canal on the one warm day (which also happens to be the last day) of your magical stay in Venice.

I had opted to leave my bags at my hotel after checking out so I could spend one more day in Venice. I wasn't in any real hurry to get back to Rome. I walked through Venice that morning, completely in love, really not wanting to leave, feeling, in fact, much like I did the day I moved out of New Haven after graduation, knowing that I really should stay, and would come back if nothing else. I walked through alleyways and through San Marco and along the banks of the canals, and came to the Rialto and decided I really wanted to sit in the sun on the canal by the bridge and enjoy the warm(ish) sunny day and have a nice glass of white wine and some lunch and say goodbye to Venice that way.

One problem in that little vision, though. There are pretty much only tourist restaurants on the banks of the grand canal by the rialto. And tourist restaurants are the scourge of the culinary earth. I don't understand them in the least, and I am convinced that they are the reason that I can meet people who've been to places like Italy and Spain and France and claim that they didn't really like the food. Because the food in tourist restaurants is generally one step below something like TGI Fridays or Applebees in the States.

But I really, really wanted to sit in the sun and sip my wine and drink in the city with my eyes.

So, I descended from the bridge, steeling my resolve, and decided that I would pick the least offensive-looking of the places along the walk, and just hold my nose and go for it. Besides, I reasoned, I had spent four nights in Venice and eaten in four of the city's top ten restaurants a total of five times

(Oh, I finally made it to Acqua Pazzo on Sunday night, and it was very good. I had a Caprese with fresh, housemade buffalo mozzarella that was so creamy and tangy and lovely, followed by a Neopolitan-style dish of dorado in white vinegar with fried zucchini slices. It sounds maybe a little odd, but you'd be amazed at how nicely the zucchini, slightly salty and crispy set off the spike of vinegar and gave a real vibrancy to what is otherwise not a particularly strong fish).

Back to the gauntlet of tourist trap lunch spots...It's not like I could really claim that I had missed out, right. I could do this. I'm strong, and I've endured much worse travel misshaps, like the one that resulted in my ride in a police car in Pamplona. Compared to that, eating at a tourist restaurant should be a piece of cake. Er, tiramasu or something. So I walked, I regarded the menus, looked at the outdoor seating options, glanced at the food on the tables of the people already dining...

And got to the end of the walk. I hadn't seen one that I could imagine spending my money, and more importantly, my calories, at. Drat. I saw a little alleyway, and started walking down it, figuring there might be some little trattoria with nice looking pizza or maybe some scampi prawn dish down that way.

Stop! (Cue the inner dialog sequence)
Paulette: Yo, dude!
Paulette: What, already?
Paulette: Remember, I wanted to eat on the bank of the canal, smile at the people in the gondolas, dream about living here some day? Are you that ADD that you've already forgotten.
Paulette: No, but those places were awful! You saw them.
Paulette: That's not the point.
Paulette: I know, but I can't eat there.
Paulette: It won't kill you, you know.
Paulette: It might. And if it does, you're to blame.
Paulette: Fine. Let's just pick one.

And so I did. I chose based on what seemed like the most advantageous position to view the bridge and the canal traffic and get some direct sunlight. I ordered pizza and a half-bottle of white wine and a mixed salad.

I suppose the first sign that I would have been right to explore that alleyway for a secret trattoria was the wine that was brought out. Bolla Soave. Uhm, I guess I can be grateful it wasn't Franzia White Zinfandel or something, or Boone's Farm for that matter, but it wasn't much of a step up.

Then salad comes out. The first salad, in fact, I've had in Italy with iceberg lettuce in it. And no bitter greens, thank you very much. I've been so loving all the arugula and radicchio in salads in Italy, and the lack of bland salad leaves. Ah well. The dressing was too oily and not in a good way, since the oil was just kind of greasy, not fruity and spicy or olivey or anything. And then the pizza. I had ordered an anchovy pizza. Nothing to fancy. And I guess it was ok, but...The anchovies were too salty, and they needed something sweet to balance them, like red onions. They didn't need all the cheese on the pizza, which was too much, and they certainly didn't need the capers and kalamata olives, which only added to the saltiness. I couldn't eat more than a few bites of it without feeling like a slug turning inside out. (Sorry if that wasn't such a pretty image).

Ah well. Train to Rome. Good dinner in Rome, at a hip place near the Via del Corso called Gusto. I had meatballs, which were actually three very large veal meatballs with a lot of sage and onion in a white wine sauce, and they were delish. And a prawn and mango salad with arugula and radicchio and very nice fruity oil and sweet, aged balsamic.

And this morning, the flight to Amsterdam.

There are people you encounter in life. People who do stupid things, or just fail to do smart things. People you look at and think, how do they manage to get by. How, just in a Darwinian sense, do they survive, let alone hold down jobs and pay bills and buy houses and cars and raise children and not burn down the garage and that sort of thing.

And every once in a while, it occurs to me that I am one of those people.

It mainly has to do with time. Maybe it's kind of ironic for a project manager to have absolutely no sense of timing or deadlines, but I don't. I feel pretty confident in the veracity of stating that, with the exception of my senior thesis, I never handed in a single paper my last two years of college less than a week late. My friends make jokes about my lateness, despite my attempts to be early all the time. I'm always rushing out the door, something half undone, the coffeepot still on, teeth unbrushed (yes, I brush my teeth in the car) because I'm going to be late for a meeting. And I miss planes. More than most people. I missed my flight to Spain last year. And on a visit home last year or so, missed the connection in Minnesota. I almost missed my flight to LA this summer when, after deciding that since I'd need to leave for the airport by 4am, and would be out until 1am or so the previous night, I should just not go to bed. And then, of course, I feel asleep and woke up with something like 45 minutes before my flight took off and had to run out the door like a madwoman and book it down the highway at nearly 90 mph to make it.

And so, it's probably not surprising that this morning, when I went to check in for my flight this morning, the guy at the ticket counter said, "Amsterdam?" and I said yes, and he said, "The one leaving right now?" and I said yes. He handed me the boarding pass. "Boarding starts at 9.45."

It was 10.05am.

It's a wonder I made the flight at all. Some glitch in the catering service delayed the flight by about twenty minutes and I just made it. And for no good reason, really, except that I had decided to walk to the train station from my hotel this morning instead of taking the bus or tram and hadn't chosen the most direct route, and then wound up realizing that the train to the airport was going to get me in to the airport 45 minutes before the flight was supposed to take off, and then of course the train got delayed....

Well, I made it. I checked in to my hotel in Amsterdam. I had a lovely liverwurst sandwich and a Heineken at a place in the Rembrandtplein and then found the sequel to a book that I finished yesterday that I just loved (thanks, Ron, for recommending "The Rotter's Club". That's so far been my favorite book on this trip.) I'm still debating whether I should just go back to Italy tomorrow when I head back to the airport. I wonder if David would fire me if I didn't come back for another week or so...